Cold Weather Cruising Tips, by Jeff Zepp
As the mercury dips below -5°F here in the Colorado mountains, I thought I would pass along some tips I have picked up over the years. These apply not only to Land Cruisers, but any vehicle that you need to start and drive in the cold weather.
First and foremost, you need to have a vehicle that starts and runs well to begin with. Any nagging little problems will become much more pronounced in the cold weather than in mild. Maintenance pays dividends here. Oil, filters, plugs, points, their surface condition and gap, wires, dist cap, timing and carb all need to be in good shape for reliable starting. I needn't go into the importance of a strong battery and cables and terminals that are clean and in good condition. Heat, overdraining and overcharging kills batteries, cold makes it noticable.
Obviously, your coolant must be a good mixture of antifreeze and distilled water. 50/50 is good down to most temperatures that those of us in the lower 48 will encounter. Not enough antifreeze will actually cause you to overheat from the frozen water in the radiator preventing flow. Don't ask me how I know this. :-)
When you first turn the key, press in the clutch to disengage it, even though the tranny is in neutral. The 90wt in the tranny will have the consistency of bubble gum and will add to the torque that the starter needs to turn over the engine. If your carb is properly adjusted, pulling the choke all the way out is usually all that is required, but sometimes a pump or two on the throttle can help, squirting fuel in from the accelerator pump.
When it is below zero, using dry gas (Methanol, such as brand name "Heet") is helpful to remove moisture from the fuel system which can clog it up as it freezes even colder in the expansion through the carb throttle body.
If you need to get a jump start or receive one, let the doner vehicle charge up the disabled one for several minutes first, the chances of success are much better than if you are impatient.
Speaking of patience, let your Cruiser warm up for at least 5-10 minutes before you drive off. Even if it isn't all the way up to operating temperature, you should still have the start of warm enough air to keep your windshield clear from frost.
As in off-road conditions, letting some air out of your tires improves traction tremendously on snow and ice. It doesn't have to be extreme, the difference between a normal highway pressure of 32 PSI and airing down to 25 PSI is quite noticable, especially on "black ice". Land Cruisers are so heavy and have such excellent intrinsic traction, that you can often make grades and pull away from icy intersections in 2 wheel drive that lesser vehicles would need four wheel drive engaged.
The Farenheit scale was based on the lower end by how cold water would remain in the liquid state no matter how much salt could be added, thus below zero and no amount of salt on the road will melt the ice. Salt is the bain of Land Cruiser steel, but it is used in abundance in the US to help melt the ice off the roads. If it is below zero Farenheit, you can bet it will be frozen anyway. Drive accordingly.
The Boy Scout motto "Be Prepared" comes home when driving around in subzero temperatures. Always carry a blanket, warm clothing, energy snacks and water, flashlight, gloves, jumper cables and basic tools to be able to deal with the unexpected with a good chance for success.
Happy Cruisin' and stay warm!